UFC fighter Liverpool Paddy Pimblett made news recently when, after winning a bout, he called for men to feel safe talking about their feelings. Pimblett revealed that a male friend had recently died by suicide. “There’s a stigma in this world that men can’t talk,” an emotional Pimblett told the crowd. “Listen, if you’re a man and you’ve got weight on your shoulders . . . please speak to someone, speak to anyone. Please, let’s get rid of this stigma. And men, start talking.”
OK, so let’s talk.
We live in a political culture and at a political moment when too many men are killing themselves. In 2019, men accounted for nearly 80 percent of the 47,511 suicide deaths in the United States. Suicide was the eighth-leading cause of death for males over the age of 10.
Moreover, according to a recent study, a significant majority of them, about 60 percent, were not linked to any mental health issue. As journalist Ross Pomeroy noted, “suicide is more driven by sudden impulsiveness in reaction to acute stressful situations.”
When I was a the center of such a situation in 2018, I learned what it was like to be gripped by the demon of suicide.
Although American Greatness readers have allowed me to explore the many consequences and implications of the political drama surrounding my high school friend Brett Kavanaugh and our friends, I thank them for indulging me one more time (besides, there will be much more in a forthcoming book) before turning to other topics. I find it necessary, particularly, to engage this topic because it is one I have not addressed before and because the problem of male suicide is so urgent.
In fall 2018, when the political Left and the press tried to destroy Brett Kavanaugh and me, they used opposition research, extortion threats, and an attempted honey trap. Christine Blasey Ford accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her in 1982 when we were all in high school. Ford claimed that I was in the room when it happened.
When I was called by New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow in September 2018, he accused me of “sexual misconduct” without telling me who the alleged victim was, where misconduct had allegedly occurred, or when. The media claimed that I’d presided over 10 gang rapes and bought and sold cocaine. They used as sources people I had never met. Nonsense was fed directly to the media, which regurgitated it without scrutiny. Indeed, the stuff was so ridiculous that there were actually liberals and progressives who did not believe Christine Blasey Ford. Many people on the Left knew Ford’s story was fiction, and were reluctant to destroy Kavanaugh over it.
I’ve generally led a happy life. But there were times during that period when I was suicidal. As Helen Andrews pointed out in a brilliant essay called “Shame Storm”—and as recent studies have shown—a sudden tsunami of shame and stress can send men over the edge. While the media depicts you as a monster with no conscience, in reality your psyche is in acute turmoil.
As I told my lawyer and the FBI, I always wanted to talk to Ford face to face, along with any moderators she wanted to bring, be they family members, law enforcement, or United States senators. I was horrified by her story. Had I any recollection of what she described, I would have said so. I was saddened that Ford, someone who spoke about trauma, would so cavalierly inflict trauma on another human being—a human being who was willing to talk to her and anyone she wanted to bring with her, but away from the media spotlight. Her insistence that I be dragged in for top billing at a Capitol Hill freak show revealed that the whole thing was more about politics than truth.
There comes a point when being acutely stressed or depressed takes a step toward ideation. Driving down the street you begin to look up at buildings to see if they are high enough to do the job. You scout where the fentanyl dealers are. Compounding it is the idea that not only would the world not care, your political enemies—in my case the American Stasi of politicians, opposition researchers, and the press—would be glad about it. You’re just a broken egg in the omelet of socialism.
The only answer, or at least part of the answer, is for there to be much less cruelty in the world, and a lot more compassion, especially in our politics.
It wasn’t that long ago that gay people, including people like British World War II codebreaker Alan Turing, took their lives by suicide. Usually they did not have a long history of mental issues, but were living under acute and horrible stress. From the 1940s through the 1960s there was a “Lavender Scare,” where homosexuality was linked to communism. Senator Joseph McCarthy reported that “practically every active Communist is twisted mentally or physically in some way.” McCarthy implied that gay men were susceptible to Communist recruitment because, as homosexuals, they had what he called “peculiar mental twists.”
Thankfully, things have changed. I think most of today’s transgender people are wrestling with a very difficult issue, gender dysphoria, and that the majority of them are not activists but just like every other American, trying to get by and experience some love and joy in life.
I know some conservatives think McCarthy was right about communists infiltrating the government. But there was no excuse for his recklessness in pursuing a noble goal. One of my personal heroes, the great anti-communist Whittaker Chambers, once told William F. Buckley that McCarthy was “a slugger and a rabble-rouser.” Chambers didn’t not like McCarhy’s reckless accusations, remarking that the Wisconsin Republican was someone who “simply knows that somebody threw a tomato and the general direction from which it came.”
This is an apt description of the hit that was put on me in 2018. A tomato came from somewhere, but nobody knows from where it came or who threw it. Allegedly, there was an assault at a party, but we don’t know when, where, or even who was there, but we were asked to believe with 100 percent certainty that Brett Kavanaugh was there. This is an exact reflection of McCarthyism.
This point was made during the height of the fiasco by Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas). As the Senate Judiciary Committee was calling for my scalp, Cornyn brought up McCarthyism and its “cruelty, recklessness and indecency.” He went on:
Our friend the ranking member said yesterday that the integrity of the Senate is on trial. I agree with that. And we’re failing badly.
Cruelty. Recklessness. Indecency, Towards the people we should be treating with respect and with dignity.
That extends to Mark Judge. Isn’t it obvious what is happening here with Mark Judge? He has submitted a statement under penalty of felony saying [he does not recall the allegations made by Ford] and “I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes. I am knowingly submitting this letter under penalty of felony.”
So he says he has nothing more to offer, he submitted his statement under penalty of felony. But here’s the other part. He admits to being a recovering alcoholic as well as a cancer survivor. He said he struggles with depression and anxiety, so much that he avoids public speaking. And our colleagues across the aisle believe that the appropriate course of action is to drag Mr. Judge into this circus-like atmosphere and to subject his battle with alcohol and addiction to public investigation and scrutiny and ridicule.
That is cruel. That is reckless. That is indecent.
Yes, it was. Sadly, the New McCarthyites didn’t care then and they don’t care now.